Sunday, September 25, 2011

brown bread ice cream

I met my friend, Sally, when we both worked for a property development company in London some years ago.  She cooked for the directors and I used to love hanging out talking to her in the kitchen, poking my nose, but more often my finger, into something tasty.  That last habit pretty much came to an end when I sneakily dipped my finger into what I thought was cream but turned out to be horseradish cream.  Whoa, hot…! 

I must have liked this ice cream recipe, as I wrote it down.  I hadn’t heard of brown bread ice cream then and haven’t seen it anywhere since.  I know it’s out there because when I googled it there were recipes abound with a variety of methods and ingredients.  That, of course, only confused me.  As did its origin – so I’ll leave it to the experts to decide whether it came from England, Ireland or someplace else.

There’s minimal information in the recipe so I’ve muddled along with what I’d written. It turned out quite good but I’d have liked it more creamy and with a smoother texture. 

I didn’t have enough cream so topped it up with milk, which I’d seen used in another version.  I was also trying to overcome the overindulgence of pouring 300ml cream and then some more into the bowl!  Go figure…this is why it is not as creamy, isn’t it? Still, with less fat and wholemeal breadcrumbs, don’t you just feel much better?  No?  Thought not.  Neither do I.

My (ahem) drinks cupboard - not that I have one you understand, just a collection of odd, seldom-used bottles – consists of Limoncello and Malibu (the youngest inhabitants) and sherry, port and Frangelico (so old I can’t even remember what that is), but not regular rum, so Malibu it was.  (Aren’t liqueur bottles such weird shapes?  They really stand out, screaming, “look at me, look at me”, then obviously no-one does because they sit there for years until you’re required to use a drop in some dish.)

On the web, some brown bread ice cream recipes used ice cream makers, some used a custard base and a lot were caramelizing the breadcrumbs with sugar before toasting.  

I'll leave the breadcrumbs coarser next time (I got a bit carried away on the pulse button!).  I’m also keen on caramelizing them to see how it changes the taste.  

Whizzing up breadcrumbs from leftover wholemeal bread and putting them in a plastic bag in the freezer means they’re ready for use when you want to whip up this dessert.  Then all you just have to do is wait until it freezes.

Take the ice cream out to soften about 30 minutes before serving. 

Note: I decorated the scoop in the photograph with some fine strips of candied kumquats.

This is my September entry for Sweet New Zealand hosted this month by Pease Pudding.

brown bread ice cream

75g/3oz wholemeal breadcrumbs
300ml/1/2 pint double cream*
250ml/8 fl oz of whipping cream*
75g/3oz demerara/pale brown soft sugar
2 egg yolks
1 tbsp rum (optional – I substituted with Malibu)
2 egg whites (stiffly whisked)
1 tbsp honey

*As I’ve never seen double cream here in New Zealand, I suggest using single cream for both types mentioned.

Spread breadcrumbs on a baking tray and roast in a moderately hot oven (180°C) until crisp and lightly browned.  Leave to cool.
Beat the creams with the sugar.

Mix the egg yolks with the rum and add to cream.

Gently fold the cooled breadcrumbs into the cream mixture.

Beat the egg whites until stiff and fold into the mixture with the honey.

Freeze.  Remove from the freezer about 30 minutes before serving.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

caramelised pear and ginger cakes

I don’t think you could say that the above look peely-wally  (pronounced pee-lay-wah-lay and meaning pale in the Scottish vernacular!) but that’s how they looked the first time I baked the original recipe, which used fresh chopped pear as opposed to caramelised.  It may have been that they were supposed to look pale and interesting.  Or possibly I should have given them a bit longer in the oven, but time was up, they were cooked and I didn’t.  

I was going to present you with before and after photos.  Then I figured that if you came upon the before photo on my blog, it would look so unappealing you would not want to read further.  Just take my word for it – insipid does not inspire.

So, I decided second time around, to give them a makeover.  I’d just been drooling over a Let Them Eat Cakes article in the local rag when I spotted toffee pears as a topping for small madeira cakes and thought this would be the answer to making them look more appealing.  I would describe them as buttered or caramelised pears, toffee to me suggests more stickiness. Done this way the pear gives the cakes the colour they previously lacked and a richer, more buttery flavour.

I also cranked up the darkness of the sugar using dark cane muscovado-type instead of light brown sugar.  Finally, I checked cooking time to make sure they were nicely coloured as well as cooked just so.  And they were.  

I have to say I preferred them done this way.  I also have to say, and am almost embarrassed to say, that the original recipe is one of Nigella’s. 

Lest you think me conceited, I think I need to emphasize that I am not trying to improve Nigella’s recipe (they tasted really good, honest!), I am just titivating my own past attempt (or maybe I should shout from the rooftops - move over Nigella, I’m improving your recipes!). 

In Nigella’s recipe, they were muffins.  This time I baked half in muffin tins and half in mini Bundt cake silicone moulds. The little cakes looked lovely.  Next time, I’ll include an extra caramelised pear and fill the centres of the Bundt cakes once they’ve been cooked.  I think that would look really nice.

Caramelised pear & ginger cakes (or muffins!)
Makes 12

1 large pear or 2 small (approx. 300g) I used Beurre Bosc
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp caster sugar

250g standard flour
2 tsp baking powder
150g caster sugar
75g dark cane (or muscovado) sugar
1 tsp ground ginger
42ml* sour cream (about 3 tbsp)
125ml rice bran (or vegetable) oil
2 eggs
1 tbsp honey (I used runny honey)
Extra dark cane sugar to sprinkle on top

Preheat oven to 200°C.

Grease a muffin tray or line with muffin cases.  If using mini-Bundt tins grease them. If you have silicone moulds, this is not required.

For the buttered pear
Peel and core the pear and cut into slices.  Heat a frying pan, add the butter and the sugar.  When bubbling, add the pear slices and cook for a few minutes each side until caramelised.  Remove pear slices and place on a paper towel to soak up excess liquid.  When cool, chop into small cubes. 

For the muffin mix
Use a sieve with a fairly open mesh to combine the dry ingredients – flour, baking powder, caster sugar, dark cane sugar and ground ginger – into a bowl.  The sieve will help break up any lumps in the dark sugar.  Mix to combine.

In a large bowl, whisk the sour cream, oil, honey and eggs and fold into the dry ingredients.

Gently mix in the chopped pear and divide the mixture between the tins.

Scatter a sprinkling of the extra sugar over the tops.

Bake for 20 minutes or until muffins spring back when touched and are nicely browned.

Cool on a wire tray.

*The 42ml presumably comes from the sour cream pot size sold in the UK and I have converted into tablespoons.

Sunday, September 4, 2011


I missed out on seeing any Auckland Film Festival films this year.  But I have seen…

Bill Cunningham New York
I admire creative people. I wish I could be more imaginative.  I envy those who work daily with their passion in life.  This charming documentary follows Bill Cunningham, a photographer in his eighties, as he rides his pedal bike or stands on street corners snapping people who catch his eye, covering society events and capturing the city’s nightlife for the New York Times.  Fashion is Bill’s passion in life and he lives it obsessively.  Attending numerous events (and turning down quite a collection of invites too) such is his integrity that he doesn’t accept even a glass of water whilst working as he does not want to be obliged to anyone.  What a breath of fresh air.  I stepped out onto the street after the movie smiling and wanting to be kind to people.  It has that effect.  It has such heart.  Go see it.

Afternoons with Margueritte
Yes, I spelt Margueritte correctly – it’s Margueritte with two t’s as the little old lady points out. 

Treated as the village idiot by other inhabitants and even worse by his own mother, Germain (Gerard Depardieu) meets a petite, elegant lady in her 90s in a park he frequents to feed the birds.  A friendship develops and Margueritte introduces him to the world of books.

Friends who’d seen this French movie all recommended it. I don’t know, perhaps I just wasn’t in the mood but I found it slightly irritating, ponderous, at times implausible and verging on slapstick.  Did Gerard Depardieu write into his contract that he had to have a very young lover?  I can’t think of another reason why a sexy and attractive young woman would be in a relationship with this character – sorry, it was bordering on creepy.  Does a supposedly barely literate man start reading effortlessly in such a short time, gliding over each word without pause?  I thought not.  Perhaps I’m just too cynical?  But you don’t have to listen to me.  Apparently I’m in the minority, so view it for yourself.

I should have gone to see this film instead.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2

Finally I got to see this at the Rialto in Newmarket, Auckland.   I recommend an early morning sitting if, like me, you want to avoid the texting, feet on seats, talking, giggling at inappropriate moments audience you might normally find at such films (they’re still in their beds).  Bliss - there was only one other person present (adult with no apparent cellphone nor restless foot and mouth), and I had a lovely coffee to sip. 

And the film? I’m always apprehensive I will dislike movies I have high hopes for.  No disappointments here.  The stylized darkness of more recent HP films is still evident – a disarming bird’s eye shot of the Hogwarts’ rampart with dark, sombre students almost frog marching was quite chilling.  There's enough action but not excessive. I’m not much into action films.  Is it just me or has there been a glut of giant trolls in films since Lord of the Rings?  Oh yes, I know, the script called for giants.  Groan.  Every time I see one I think of Weta workshop and there goes the magic!

The sad moments were mercifully consigned to the background (well, Dobbie dying in the last one was enough for me, thanks) and although it was a more serious chapter, the humour was still evident.

And that’s it, the end of the books and the films.  I have lost my voice on occasions or choked back tears reading the books to my daughter when she was younger.  It was a lovely connection we had together and now it’s all over.  Bye bye Harry Potter, we loved you!

If you’d like some more film reviews, visit this link to Plum Kitchen and see how she uses  “tractor” ratings to rank movies  – very amusing. 

And read this book.

Hand Me Down World
Lloyd Jones

I purchased this book at midday one day, starting reading it at 4 o’clock to get in a few hours reading.  Next day, I sat in the sun at lunch reading for half an hour, then read solid for two hours when I got home.  By 6pm I had closed the last page.  Whew!  But why?  Well, to be in time to discuss it at book club, that’s why.  Like me, one of our book club members had done the same.  We’d both read reviews that implied there was a twist to the tale.  So the dilemma – do we limit everyone to talking around the book and avoiding spoiling it for us?  Or, do we push to finish it. This was the kind of book that made me want to keep turning the pages.  Drawn in from the start, I was captivated.  It was satisfying to devour it in a couple of sessions as a continuous flow without forgetting where I’d got to in the plot the last time I put it down.  

The novel is the story of a mysterious woman, whose child is taken from her, and we follow her journey from Tunisia to Berlin to find the boy.  Except she’s not telling the story.  The author uses people the woman meets along the way to recount her journey.  The truth or versions of the truth unfold slowly.  Finally, readers get to hear the woman’s own personal account.  This is a beautifully written, haunting story about identity, other people’s perceptions, survival and motherhood that you will want to read again.